Arkansas - Chocolate Rice Pudding

Arkansas - Chocolate Rice Pudding

*I did not forget the alphabet - Arizona will be next!  : ) 

Rice and Arkansas - who knew? 
I had absolutely no idea that Arkansas is the top producer of rice in the United States.  In fact, 48% of the rice grown in the U.S. each year comes from Arkansas and 1.3 million acres of the state’s land is dedicated to rice.

Rice 101
There are about 20 rice varieties grown commercially in the U.S. All can be classified as long, medium or short grain.  Arkansas produces medium and long grain varieties. 

Long Grain Rice
Long and slender, these grains are 4 to 5 times as long as they are wide. Cooked grains remain separate and fluffy. The perfect choice for side dish, main dish or salad recipes.
Medium Grain Rice
Plump, but not round. When cooked, the grains are more moist and tender than long grain rice. Ideal for dessert, casserole, bread and stir-fry recipes.
Short Grain Rice
Almost round, the cooked grains tend to cling together when cooked. Great for stir-fry recipes and puddings.

What’s the best sweet you can make with Rice?  Rice Pudding! 
I’m not even going to attempt to pinpoint the exact origins of Rice Pudding in Arkansas’s culinary history - because frankly it could have come from anywhere!  Just about every culture has their own variation of Rice Pudding so we’ll just give credit to the melting pot that is the United States and jump right to the recipe!  

Oh yeah... finally something chocolate!  
The simplicity of Rice Pudding lends itself to many flavor variations, so I decided to make Chocolate Rice Pudding.  We were long overdue for a little chocolate on Sweet State of Mine!

1/2 cup uncooked Medium Grain Rice 
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar 
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

❉  Sift together cocoa powder and sugar to remove any lumps
❉  Mix uncooked rice, cocoa powder, sugar, cinnamon and salt together in top of double boiler
❉  Add milk and mix well 
❉  Place over simmering water 
❉  Cover and cook over hot water for 1 hour and 25 minutes or until milk has cooked into rice and mixture is pudding consistency
❉  Stir occasionally during cooking 
❉  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract 
❉  Transfer to a bowl, place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and place in the refrigerator
❉  Once chilled, serve with thin cream or whipped cream 

I really like Rice Pudding and this was a very simple, low maintenance recipe to make. If you make this recipe, be sure you use medium grain rice and if you don’t love cinnamon with chocolate, you may want to pull back on the amount of cinnamon you use or leave it out all together.  

If you want to really experience Rice Pudding, check out Rice to Riches in SoHo, NYC!  Their flavor options are insane, they have a huge menu of toppings / mix ins, and their packaging is really fun! 


ps - would anyone in my building like some medium grain rice?  apparently they don’t sell 1 pound bags around here and i am 100% sure that this 3 pounder (minus 1/2 cup) will be spilled all over our kitchen before we can consume it.  lemme know - seriously.  ; )  

This looks delicious as always. I am sure we could use some of the rice. I will send Armaan over.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - 07:21 PM

Kate Lindsey O'Reilly
As an Arkansan, I've gotta say that I love rice pudding. My mom always made it on snow days, but I've never had the chocolate version.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - 07:26 PM

Alaska - Akutaq / Eskimo Ice Cream

Alaska - 
Akutaq / Eskimo Ice Cream 

I have to admit I had no clue what Alaska’s State Sweet would be - until I consulted my friend Mr. Google.  After a good bit of “googling”, I discovered Akutaq (pronounced “a-goo-duk”) which has been a favorite among Alaskans for generations!  Just what I was looking for! 

Functional Food 
Akutaq means “mix them together” in Yup’ik which is one of the native languages spoken in Alaska.   The traditional version of Akutaq is a mixture of tallow (rendered fat from arctic animals like elk, moose, whale), seal oil, cooked fish and berries.  Natives developed this recipe as something they could carry with them on the hunt for nourishment and a good way to use readily available ingredients.  

Akutaq in Alaska Today
Alaskan’s make Akutaq for ceremonies, memorial services, celebrations of a boys first hunt, and for potlucks.  Each family has their own way of making Akutaq and their “recipe” is passed down from generation to generation.  

It is difficult to find an exact recipe for Akutaq, but I did find this description and step-by-step on a website for one of the school systems in Alaska - I thought you might enjoy reading this!  

“Each family makes akutaq a little differently.  This is how my family makes our akutaq. There aren’t any real instructions on how to make this recipe because we make it the way we were taught and we pass it down to our kids that way.

The traditional way to teach people to make akutaq is to let them watch and learn.  And when we are done making it, we draw a shape of a cross in the middle of the akutaq with our finger.  Then we take each type of berry from the akutaq (unless there is only one type of berry) and a pinch of the mixture, and throw it into the fire.  When I do that, I have to say, “Tamarpeci nerluci.”  That’s in Yupik, but in English it means, “All of you eat.”

Fish (white fish, pike, or any kind of salmon) 3 to 4 pounds
Vegetable oil
Berries (blueberries, salmonberries, cranberries, etc.) 1/2 gallon to a gallon

Step 1    Gut the fish.
Step 2    Chop the fish into four to five pieces (depending on the fish size). If you bought from the store, that’s fine.
Step 3    You can throw away the head, tail, and guts from the fish.
Step 4    Place the fish into a large or medium size pot.
Step 5    Fill the pot of fish with plenty of water so it covers all the fish.  (The Fish must be thawed.)
Step 6    After the water starts to boil, reduce the heat so it won’t boil too hard.
Step 7    Let the fish simmer for about 20 minutes or until it’s done.
Step 8    Cool in the pot so the flavor remains in the fish.
Step 9    After the fish is cool use a large basin (bowl) to put the fish in after you clean it.
Step 10  The way you clean the fish is take off the skin, take out the bones, and squeeze out all the water from the fish with your hands.
Step 11  After you do that to the whole fish, break up the squeezed fish.
Step 12  Look for bones that got left behind, and take them out if you found some.
Step 13  By the time your done with that, the fish should be all crumbled up.
Step 14  Take at least two large scoops of Crisco with your hand and add it to the fish.
Step 15  Stir it up with your hand for at least three to five minutes, or until the fish is mixed well with the Crisco.
Step 16  If the Crisco and the fish do not blend together, add a little more Crisco until it does.
Step 17  Take the vegetable oil and pour in about a cup.  You don’t need to measure (estimate).
Step 18  Stir it up until it’s almost creamy.
Step 19  If it’s not getting creamy, add a little more vegetable oil.
Step 20  Whip it up with your hand until it gets fluffy.
Step 21  Pour at least a cup of sugar into the mixture (estimate).
Step 22  Stir it up until the sugar dissolves.
Step 23  Add about another cup of sugar to the mixture.
Step 24  Stir it up until the sugar dissolves.
Step 25  Add more sugar if it tastes like it needs more.
Step 26  Add plenty of berries to the mixture.
Step 27  Mix it up.
Step 28  Add more berries to the mixture if you want more. The akutaq should have
a lot of berries in it, but not too much.
Step 29  The akutaq is ready to eat.
Step 30  Always keep the akutaq refrigerated.”

I really loved the way that was written because I could just hear her saying those steps while teaching her daughter or granddaughter to make Akutaq!  

Big Question - Did I really make a dessert with FISH?????
I did not.  Fortunately, I found that some Alaskans make “Coastal” style Akutaq which has no fish - so I opted for that version!  : )  

So my ingredients were...

1 cup solid vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water, berry juice or 2 cups loose snow 
4 cups berries 
    ❉ common berries used are blueberries, cloudberries, cranberries, salmonberries or blackberries. 

My (virtual) Berry Hunt 
In the spirit of the Last Frontier, I set out on my own Hunt.  A Berry Hunt.  On the internet.  I was so excited when I heard about Salmonberries and Cloudberries, and just knew I could find some frozen berries on the world wide web and make my Akutaq really authentic!  

I soon discovered that to get my hands on these berries, I would need to fly to Alaska in July or August, go hiking, and pick one of the 50 varieties of berries that grow in the wild, all while wearing bear bells - since bears enjoy fresh berries too!  

Frozen berries it is!  I used a combination of Blackberries (mostly), Raspberries and Blueberries.  

30 Steps down to 3
“Coastal” akutaq is much easier to make than Traditional!  Just three simple steps!

❉ Cream together shortening & sugar
❉ Mix in berry juice, water, or snow 
❉ Fold in berries 1 cup at a time, by hand.  Place in freezer to firm up.  

There really isn’t anything “ice cream like” about Akutaq,  but I would imagine that making this dish with loads of fresh picked, wild berries would be a yummy treat!  The shortening texture and mouth feel were hard for me to enjoy, but I absolutely love the tradition of Akutaq in Alaska and am so glad I discovered this special “recipe”.  


Jessica Glenn Crumpacker
I just love this blog Meredith. That dessert sounds crazy...who knew? Fish???
Friday, March 18, 2011 - 09:01 PM

Louisiana - King Cake

Louisiana - King Cake 

Fat Tuesday is next week which means we are in the heart of Mardi Gras season!  I thought that would be the perfect reason to skip ahead to Louisiana and the King Cake!  One of my friends is from New Orleans and she suggested King Cake as her home state sweet.  I whole heartedly agree!  Each year her Father ships a King Cake from Randazzo’s Bakery in New Orleans to her, and she was generous enough to share it with us!  It was delicious, and I was so excited to taste an authentic King Cake!

What is it?
A King Cake is a ring of rich pastry, similar to brioche or Danish, filled with Cinnamon and Sugar, Cream Cheese or other fillings like Praline or Apple.  It is then coated with a sugary icing and sprinkled with purple, green and gold sugar.

What do the colors represent?
Purple - Justice
Green - Faith
Gold - Power

History of the King Cake
Since I had the pleasure of eating one of Manny Randazzo’s King Cakes, I thought I would consult his website to learn where this treat originated and what role it plays in Louisiana culture today.

“The Mardi Gras or Carnival season officially begins on January 6th or the "Twelfth Night," also known to Christians as the "Epiphany." Epiphany comes from a Greek word that means "to show." Jesus first showed himself to the three wisemen and to the world on this day. As a symbol of this Holy Day, a tiny plastic baby is placed inside each King Cake.

The King Cake tradition is thought to have been brought to New Orleans from France in 1870. A King Cake is an oval-shaped bakery delicacy, crossed between a coffee cake and a French pastry that is as rich in history as it is in flavor. It's decorated in royal colors of PURPLE which signifies "Justice," GREEN for "Faith," and GOLD for "Power." These colors were chosen to resemble a jeweled crown honoring the Wise Men who visited the Christ Child on Epiphany. In the past such things as coins, beans, pecans, or peas were also hidden in each King Cake.

Today, a tiny plastic baby is the common prize. At a party, the King Cake is sliced and served. Each person looks to see if his piece contains the "baby." If so, then that person is named "King" for a day and bound by custom to host the next party and provide the King Cake.

Mardi Gras Day has a moveable date and may occur on any Tuesday from February 3rd to March 9th. It is always the day before Ash Wednesday, and always falls 46 days before Easter.”

The Recipe
There are tons of recipes out there for King Cake!  Since this was my first time making one, I decided to use trusty Southern Living’s recipe.


16 ounces Sour Cream
1/3 cup Sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt

❉ Cook these ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts.  Set aside, cool mixture to 100 - 110 degrees F. 


   2 (1/4 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup warm water (100 - 110 degrees F)

❉ Stir together in measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes

Before 5 Minutes 

After 5 Minutes 

Working with yeast can be tricky so a few notes: 
1. Two things kill yeast - direct contact with Salt and Liquids that are too hot (generally above 110 degrees F)
2.  If the yeast has not bubbled and increased in size significantly (mine almost doubled), after you have fed it with the water and sugar and given it some time to grow, you have a problem - do not proceed with that yeast.   Always check the expiration date on the yeast but know that fluke things happen and even “current” yeast can be a dud.   So if you don’t see activity at this stage, there won’t be activity in the oven.  boo!

Don’t be scared... let’s move on!  

2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 - 6  1/2 cups of Bread Flour *
*All Purpose flour can be substituted, but it will result in a more dense cake.  

❉ Beat sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, eggs and 2 cups flour at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until smooth.  Reduce speed to low, and gradually add enough remaining flour ( 4 - 4 1/2 cups) until a soft dough forms.

❉ Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes)

(Consider this your tricep work out for the week!)  OR (and this is my recommendation) switch over to the dough hook on your electric mixer and let it knead for 7 - 8 minutes.  I tried both ways and was more successful using the machine.   ; )

❉ Place in a well greased bowl , turning to grease top.  Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk.  (I find the oven to be a good nook)



This recipe makes enough dough for 2 King Cakes, so I decided to make one Traditional (Cinnamon / Sugar) and one CREAM CHEESE!!!!!  The recipes below make enough filling for two cakes.  You can choose to do one or both and just have some leftover filling.

Cinnamon Sugar Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
1  1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I actually used a bit more - closer to 2 teaspoons)
1/3 cup butter, softened

Cream Cheese Filling:
2 - 8 ounce packages Cream Cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

❉ Beat cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla extract at medium speed with electric mixer.

Rollin’ and Shapin’
We’re getting close now!  Time to punch down the dough and start rolling!

❉ Punch down dough, and divide in half.  Roll each portion into a 22 x 12 inch rectangle.
❉ Spread butter (for Traditional) or Cream Cheese filling on dough, leaving a 1 inch border
❉ Mix together sugar and cinnamon (for Traditional) and sprinkle over butter

❉ Roll up each dough rectangle, jelly-roll fashion, starting with 1 long side.  Place one dough roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bring ends of roll together to form an oval ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal.  Repeat with second dough roll.
❉  Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees F), free from drafts, 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
❉ Before putting in the oven, I brushed the dough with an egg wash so that it would be golden brown and have a nice sheen after baking.

❉ Bake at 375 for 20 - 30 minutes until golden.  (SL’s recipe says 14 - 16 minutes, but mine took longer)  Just keep an eye on it and see how your oven does. 
❉ Slightly cool cakes still on pans and on wire racks.

Creamy Glaze & Decorations

3 cups powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 4 Tablespoons milk 

❉ Stir together first four ingredients.  Stir in 2 Tablespoons milk, adding additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until spreading consistency. 

I ordered my sugar crystals from King Arthur’s Flour and found a 12 pack of babies (sounds weird) at Party City in the Baby Shower section.

❉ Gently lift part of the cake off of the baking pan and press un petite bebe inside the cake.  Press it far enough in that the cake sits flat, but not so far that an arm pokes out the top!  
❉ Drizzle Creamy Glaze evenly over warm cakes; sprinkle with colored sugars, alternating colors and forming bands.  Let cool completely.

King Cakes are “supposed” to only be made between January 6th and Mardi Gras Day so if you are a strict rule follower, you have 7 days to make your own King Cake this year!  


Grace P.
tres delicieux! i thought this was up there with the randazzo's cake. the cream cheese and cinnamon really came through. by the way, i'm enjoying the blog (and tickled to be a part of this one!). such a clever way of presenting ingredients with photos, i've never seen that before. and i love the embroidered state napkins. looking forward to following your future baking projects!
Wednesday, March 2, 2011 - 08:51 PM
Thank you Grace!  And thank you for the HUGE compliment - to even be close to Randazzo's is an honor!  I loved the cream cheese version too - but I'm a sucker for anything with a cream cheese filling!
Thursday, March 3, 2011 - 08:59 PM
Love the way you not only tell us about the King Cake, but, lucky me gets to taste it as well!  Very awesome.  Looking forward to the next tasting!  Keep up the sweet work.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 01:19 PM